Thomas Kuchel, U.S. Senator

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Thomas Henry Kuchel

Birthdate: (84)
Death: 1994 (84)
Immediate Family:

Son of Henry Kuchel and Letitia Kuchel

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Immediate Family

About Thomas Kuchel, U.S. Senator

Thomas Henry Kuchel (August 15, 1910 – November 21, 1994)[1] was a moderate Republican US Senator from California. From 1959 to 1969 he was the minority whip in the Senate,[2] where he was the co-manager on the floor for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.[3]



[edit] Early life

Kuchel (pronounced KEEK-uhl, /ˈkiːkəl/) was born in Anaheim in Orange County, the son of Henry Kuchel, a newspaper editor and the former Letitia Bailey. Kuchel attended public school as a child. While he was at Anaheim High School, he joined the debate team. He debated a team from Whittier High School, winning his own debate against his opponent and later intraparty rival, Richard Nixon.

He graduated from the University of Southern California in 1932, and from University of Southern California Law School before he entered state government.


Kuchel served in the California State Assembly from 1937 to 1941, in the California State Senate from 1941 to 1945, and as California State Controller from 1946 to 1953. During World War II, Kuchel was a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Naval Reserves.

In 1953, Kuchel was appointed to the US Senate by Governor Earl Warren to fill the vacancy created after Republican Senator Richard Nixon was elected Vice President. Kuchel was elected to the remainder of Nixon's term in 1954 and to full terms in 1956 and 1962.

Kuchel pointedly refused to endorse ticket-mate Nixon's candidacy for governor in 1962 in a heated race against incumbent Democrat Edmund G. "Pat" Brown, Sr. He had first attempted to steer clear of the factional infighting within the California GOP which took place in the 1950s between Vice President Nixon, US Senate Republican Leader William F. Knowland, a conservative, and Governor Goodwin J. Knight, a liberal. Known as a moderate, Kuchel eventually backed Knowland in his campaign to oust Knight in the Republican primary for governor in 1958. Knight then ran for the United States Senate, but he and Knowland both lost that year.

However, Kuchel broke with Knowland in 1964 when Knowland asked him to endorse Barry Goldwater for the Republican nomination for president, and Kuchel instead endorsed Nelson Rockefeller, who narrowly lost the California presidential primary to Goldwater.

While Kuchel was campaigning against Goldwater, there circulated a "vicious document" that purported to be an affidavit signed by a Los Angeles police officer, saying that in 1949 he had arrested Kuchel. The document said the arrest was for drunkenness while Kuchel had been in the midst of a sex act. Four men were indicted for the libel: Norman H. Krause, bar owner and ex-Los Angeles policeman, who in 1950 did arrest two people who worked in Kuchel's office for drunkenness; Jack D. Clemmons, a Los Angeles police sergeant until his resignation two weeks before his arrest; John F. Fergus, a public relations man for Eversharp, Inc., who in 1947 was charged with possession of a concealed weapon and given a suspended sentence, and Francis A. Capell of Zarephath, New Jersey, the publisher of a right wing newsletter.

Kuchel was narrowly defeated in the Republican primary in 1968 by conservative state Superintendent of Public Instruction Max Rafferty, who went on to lose the general election to Alan Cranston, the former state Controller, a position once held by Kuchel himself. Kuchel returned to practicing law in California until his retirement in 1981.

He died of lung cancer on November 21, 1994 in Beverly Hills.


Secretary of Defense and former White House Chief of Staff and CIA Director Leon Panetta began in politics as a legislative assistant to Kuchel. Panetta would cite Kuchel as "a tremendous role model."

In August 2010, the Beverly Hills City Council paid tribute to Senator Kuchel on the 100th anniversary of his birth. His widow Betty Kuchel and daughter Karen Kuchel accepted a proclamation from Councilman Dr. Willie Warren Brien, a grandson of Governor Earl Warren, at the August 17th council meeting.

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Thomas Kuchel, U.S. Senator's Timeline

Age 84